Monday, 9 May 2016

The Single Most Important Thing to Remember When Giving An Author Reading

Giving an author reading can be a daunting prospect, but actually it isn't.  Here's why:

Remember when you were last in an audience,  waiting to hear an author speak and read from their latest book.  What were your expectations?  

That you might have an enjoyable evening?  That you might learn something interesting?  That you might discover a new author to read?  They probably weren't much more than that - you almost certainly weren't expecting to have the secrets of the universe revealed to you.

And what would you have been doing if you hadn't come to the reading?

Watched television?  Gone out for a drink?  Read a book?  Got an early night? Again, I'm going guess that the alternatives weren't rivetingly exciting.  Normal things, probably.

And what did you feel about the author?  

If you didn't know them, probably not much - that they wouldn't be boring, maybe.

Now think about you, the author.

If this reading goes amazingly well, what is/are the best thing(s) that will happen?

Some people buy your book?  An agent/publisher/famous author/fabulous person wants to meet up and gives you their number?  The person you've been trying to chat up for ages is impressed?

All these things could lead somewhere good, but they're not exactly life-changing in themselves.

And now, if this reading goes incredibly badly, what is/are the worst thing(s) that will happen?

No one buys your book?  No career-useful person approaches you?  The person you've been trying to chat up for ages is still unimpressed?

In other words, you'll be at exactly the same place as you were if you hadn't done the reading.

Remember that it's all very low stakes.  The audience don't expect much, and won't be that bothered if you don't even meet those expectations.  And from your point of view, even if you forget your name and the title of your book (and I've done that on at least one occasion!) the stakes are very very low, both for you and for the audience.

The worst that can happen is nothing, and that's going to happen anyway if you don't do the reading. So you might as well stop being nervous and just get on with it.


Martin B said...

Guess this post applies to just about everything in life..just get put and do it!

Martin B said...

But don't forget to check your spelling before you post!

Sarah Duncan said...

Yes to both!

Penny A said...

Yes - can be enjoyable. Unlike a friend in the audience, that first time, who fell fast asleep! But to be fair, she'd already read the story...

Georgina Troy said...

I haven't done a book reading but I did give my first talk to the Jersey Literary Festival last year. I was very nervous but once I looked at the audience I realized they were there to hear me speak and not to see me fail. I relaxed instantly and ended up enjoying myself. Thankfully I think they did too.

Sarah Duncan said...

Oh dear Penny, that must have been disconcerting.

Congrats on giving your first talk - I"m sure that if you were enjoying yourself, they did too.

Joanna (Lazuli Portals) said...

I really do need to keep this in mind, especially as my co-author and I have an informal event this weekend - thank you, Sarah!

I receive your posts by email so don't often come on to comment. But I do read them (once I have time to catch up), and do find them valuable - thank you. I'm keeping the Game of Thrones ones to read later, though, as I'm behind on the books and am being careful to avoid inadvertent spoilers!

Sarah Duncan said...

You're welcome!

I must admit I haven't read the books. I've got them, because my daughter has read them all and passed them on, but they're so big... As I get older, I like my books shorter.